Defining the Grotesque: Towards an Aesthetics of Liminality

By Madeleine Schechter.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

I contend that the term “grotesque” provides a rule for organizing the experience of those works of art that cannot be classified in accordance with canonical or traditionally accepted Western poetic and/or aesthetic categories, which are basically the classical ones. In this respect, one can define a work of art X as grotesque, and mean a positive evaluation of X, while obtaining gratification from this uncanonical sensuous complex, which embodies both a variety of items and their organization into a whole, on the one hand, and simultaneously cancels the basic distinction between classification and evaluation. The definition of the grotesque as liminal and/or hybrid assesses the Renaissance ornaments named grottesche as images or spatial metaphors since their perceptual configuration spatializes a recurrent principle present in works of art belonging to different media. Within a general conception of art as being interrelated, this pattern became from the beginning a structure of meaning and a critical instrument. It initiated and enabled, i.e. verbalized the thinking about incongruity and afforded the ground from which the theory of grotesque or liminal in art emerged.

Keywords: Grotesque, Aesthetics of Liminality

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.125-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 516.553KB).

Dr. Madeleine Schechter

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Madeleine Schechter is Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University. Her fields of research include aesthetics, semiotics, feminism and cultural studies. She has published articles on the aesthetics of liminality, semiotics, modernism, poetics, and mentalities. Her book Semiotics and Art Theory: Between Autonomism and Contextualism is currently in press. She is now working on a book on Grotesque as Aesthetic Liminality.

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